Jens Schröter on the Need to Assess the Historical Value of Acts on Multiple Levels

Whereas my posts from January 13, February 17, and March 17 dealt with Jens Schröter’s theoretical reflections on historiography, this will be the first of three posts (see now here and here) that focus more specifically on Jens Schröter’s perspectives on the historical value of Acts in From Jesus to the New Testament, which will presumably inform his forthcoming HNT commentary on Acts. Needless to say, I would be delighted if these three posts would initiate/provoke a more substantive response to Schröter’s treatment of this topic by one (or several) of the many Acts specialists in the blogging community! Since today’s excerpt is  rather short, I will analyse it in greater detail as a model sentence.

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the grammatical commentary directly follows the German text.

English Translation and German Original

From Jesus to the New Testament, p. 219: “No one disputes that Luke – as every other writer of history – has selected events and arranged them from a certain perspective. Likewise it is uncontroversial that he has made use of information about actual events, general knowledge about the places of the events, and knowledge about the political and military governance of the Roman provinces. If there is agreement about this, then the question of its historical value arises on multiple levels: How precise is Luke’s knowledge of circumstances and the course of narrated events? How well informed about the local color of the respective areas? And finally: How are his intentions and his manner of presentation to be described? In order to characterize Acts as a work of history, one must carefully distinguish between these levels.”

Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament, p. 239: „Niemand bestreitet, dass Lukas – wie jeder andere Geschichtsschreiber auch – Ereignisse ausgewählt und aus einer bestimmten Perspektive gestaltet hat. Ebenso ist unstrittig, dass er dabei Informationen über tatsächliche Ereignisse, allgemeines Wissen über die Orte des Geschehens sowie Kenntnisse über die politische und militärische Verwaltng der römischen Provinzen verarbeitet hat. Herrscht hierüber Einigkeit, so stellt sich die Frage nach dem Geschichtswert auf mehrfacher Ebene: Wie genau kennt Lukas Umstände und Verlauf der erzählten Ereignisse? Wie gut ist er über das Lokalkolorit der jeweiligen Gegenden informiert? Und schließlich: Wie sind seine Intention und seine Darstellungsweise zu beschreiben? Um die Apg als Geschichtswerk zu charakterisieren, ist zwischen diesen Ebenen sorgfältig zu unterscheiden.“

Grammatical analysis

Niemand is the subject and bestreitet the verb. dass introduces the content of what is not disputed. Lukas is the subject. wie = as. jeder anderer = every other. I have left auch untranslated, but I could have written: as every other writer of history “also”. Since dass introduces a subordinate clause the verbs move to the end of the sentence; hat goes with both ausgewält and gestaltet. Ereignisse/events is the direct object of ausgewält hat/selected and the prepositional phrase (aus + dative) aus einer bestimmten Perspektive/from a certain perspective modifies gestaltet hat/arranged. gestaltet could also be translated as “configured”. Ebenso = likewise; unstrittig = uncontroversial; dass introduces the content that is “uncontroversial” and the verb verarbeitet hat. I sometimes translate verarbeiten as “processed” or “reworked”, but here I translated it as “made use of”. Er/he is the subject. It is often best to leave dabei untranslated as I have done here, but I sometimes translate it as “here”, “in doing so”, “in the process”, or “thereby”. Informationen, allgemeines Wissen, and Kenntnisse are the direct objects of verarbeiten hat, and all three direct objects are modified with prepositional phrases that use über, which I have translated with “about” here, though “concerning” or “on” would have worked also. the adjectives tatsächliche/actual and allgemeines/general modify  Ereignisse/events and Wissen, which are both governed by über. The genitive des Geschehens modifies die Orte, which is also governed by über. The adjectives politische/political and militärische/military modify Verwaltung/governance. The genitive der römischen Provinzen indicates what is governed. Verwaltung could also be translated as “administration”. Herrscht stands at the beginning of the sentence, and so is encountered later. I believe that this signals to the reader that it should be translated as “if … then” though I’m not quite sure here. Einigkeit/agreement is the subject of herrscht and hierüber/about this specifies what their is agreement about. Rather than saying “if agreement rules (or prevails) about this” I have conformed the translation to the target language and written “if there is agreement about this” (“if there is consensus on this point” would also have worked). stellt sich die Frage can be translated as “the question arises”, literally “the question poses itself”. Frage nach can be translated as “question of” or sometimes “quest for” (as in Frage nach dem historischen Jesus). dem Geschichtswert = historical value (dative with nach). auf mehrfacher Ebene/on multiple levels (dative with auf). Introducing a question, wie genau/how exactly modifies the verb kennt, which is followed by the subject Lukas. Umstände/circumstances [or conditions] and Verlauf/course are the direct objects of the verb kennt. The genitive construction der erzählten Ereignisse/of the narrated events modifies both Umstände and Verlauf. Introducing a question, wie gut/how well modifies the verb ist … informiert. er is the subject. über/about takes the accusative das Lokalkolorit, which is modified by the genitive der Gegenden/areas {or regions]. It often works to translate jeweiligen as “respective” or “each”. Und schliesslich = and finally. Introducing a question, wie/how modifies the verb sind … beschreiben. sind + infinitive is often best translated “must be described”, though “are … to be described” or “should … be described” are sometimes better. Intention is singular rather than plural, so perhaps I should have translated it as “intention” rather than “intentions”. I think Intention and Darstellung are technically the subjects of sind … zu beschreiben, but am not really sure how to explain the nuts and bolts of this construction properly. Um .. zu + infinitive/charakterisieren = in order to characterize. Apg/Acts is the object and I think als Geschichtswerk/as a work of history could be described as an object complement. ist … zu + infinitive/unterscheiden: one must distinguish. zwischen diesen Ebenen/between these levels (dative plural with zwischen). The adverb sorgfältig/carefully modifies the verb unterscheiden.

Substantive analysis

What I like about this quotation from Schröter is that it seeks to distinguish between several specific questions that have a bearing on how one thinks about the historical value of Acts. Whereas scholars sometimes proceed as if one must choose between “Luke the theologian” and “Luke the historian”, Schröter’s distinction between various levels makes it possible to provide a more nuanced account of Luke’s intention, manner of presentation, and knowledge of various circumstances, events, and areas.

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